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Simple ways to be smart

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Judy Backhouse, Soumaya Ben Dhaou

01 May 2021

International Telecommunication Union


Amy Mutua

Research report



A common perception is that smart cities are all larger cities that function smoothly, are well resourced and with deep skill bases, that can be drawn on to develop sophisticated, high-tech interventions. This perception excludes the majority of cities and human settlements which are not large or well-resourced and have operational challenges. However, smart technologies and ideas have relevance for all cities and settlements as they enable better city management and operation and can improve quality of life. This report was conceived to identify smart interventions that do not require excessive material or capacity inputs and yet can help cities and settlements to become more inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable. Smart cities have also been criticised for serving the needs of the elite at the expense of the majority of city residents, thus increasing inequality in cities. However, if smart cities are developed based on needs, they can provide public services that are more efficient, effective, and personalised. This report collects examples of smart interventions that support the aforementioned goals and produces a guide for cities that wish to embark on the journey to be “smarter”. It is important to recognise that smart interventions need not be technology-based but should be premised on evidence, and should also pay careful attention to the target population whose needs are being addressed. This report defines criteria for what makes an intervention smart and simple.


Abstract based directly on original source. Back to the SmartCity.ZA collection.


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Human settlements



Smart Cities

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